Before Shadé Mason began treating her autoimmune disease with herbs, steroids had pushed her to a weight of 267 pounds. When the 35-year-old Bowie, Maryland woman was diagnosed with mixed connective tissue disease, she was only on allergy medication. Now, she has to treat her illness with around 20 different medicines.
Shadé distinctly remembers her doctor telling her that an autoimmune disease like hers meant she’d wake up with only a half tank of gas every day. “She said, ‘you have to be really strategic with what you put your energy into.’”
But Shadé has found that using herbs has been a massive help for pain management, and with her LĒVO II, she’s been able to infuse oils and butters and include them in her plant-based diet. Studies have found that the flower may decrease chronic pain in autoimmune sufferers, lessening inflammation associated with the diseases. Shadé’s own research, plus a helpful naturopath, lead her to herbs.
Empowering other autoimmune disease sufferers has been a key part of Shadé's journey. She started an Instagram page called ‘Her Autoimmune Discussion’ (@herautoimmunediscussion), where she shares personal details of her healing journey, recipes and uplifting quotes and messages. That, alongside focusing her energies on self-care and self-healing, fill up her cup.
We spoke to Shadé about her diagnosis, overcoming challenges, and how LĒVO has empowered her to manage pain at home in her journey to treat autoimmune disease naturally.
Can you share your diagnosis story?
So this is crazy, but I had started a new job in March of 2019, and around April is when I started getting sick. I started getting all these really bad headaches, then I went to the emergency room. I thought I had some type of flu, and was down for about a week. The headaches wouldn’t go away, so they referred me to a neurologist. I got an MRI and cat scan, but everything was fine. I also had this facial tightness and would feel off-balance all the time.
Eventually, in August, they diagnosed me with mixed connective tissue disease. It’s like a combination of lupus and some other autoimmune diseases. I ended up going on short-term disability because with autoimmune diseases, it takes forever to try to get you stable. I'm still not stable. I can't even tell you how many medications they put me on, and so I had to go on long-term disability.
That sounds so difficult. It must be really mentally challenging, too.
Yeah, you never think it’s going to be you, right? We always say ‘don’t take things for granted,’ but we say it as a cliché. But then when it hits you, you’re just like ‘oh, wow.’ It can change just like that, you know?
I always tell people I was only on allergy medicine, and now I'm on like 20 different medications. So it's just crazy. But yeah, it was definitely a lot at the beginning.
And it's still a lot because your whole life changes. You don't know what's wrong with you. Every time you turn around, you have a new symptom and it causes anxiety because you're uncertain about your health. You have symptoms where no one can tell you what's going on. You have all these doctor's appointments, and then Covid-19 hit, and I was planning a wedding on top of that.
I was in a bad mental space because the unknowns of your health puts you in a state of fear.
It must have felt terrifying. When are you getting married?
I got engaged in June of 2019, and we actually were supposed to get married in April this year, but we ended up pushing it back to August because of Covid.
For people who already had anxiety issues, Covid just maximized them. I did because I'm high-risk and in my mind, you know, with my immune system, I just thought that if I caught Covid, that was going to be the end. I’ve been in the house for an entire year, except for doctor's appointments. My poor fiancé, he hasn't really seen his family because of me. So sometimes I feel bad, but I just couldn't take the chance.
So when did you turn to diet to help with managing the symptoms?
I was in a deep depression, but then in November 2019 I found a naturopathic doctor and she was able to give me structure. Diet plays a huge part, so I knew I had to remove some things. I’ve been trying to work at that and I’ve lost 35 pounds. I got the medical flower card and then started working with her and she definitely encouraged it.
Smoking for me didn’t work because I have asthma, so I thought I’d do edibles. But then all of the edibles at dispensaries, I’d look at the ingredients and it was like corn syrup, high fructose, and I was just thinking ‘I can’t have any of this. This causes inflammation and I’m trying to lose weight.’ So I started looking into making my own and the common process was cooking in the oven, but me and my fiancé are renting a small basement apartment to save money until we buy our house, and upstairs there’s a family with children and I read that it creates a really bad smell.
So once I found LĒVO and found out that it does the decarboxylation for you, I knew I had to get it. It’s a game changer because I know a lot of people who have autoimmune diseases have lung problems. It’s perfect for people who want to eat healthy. You can make your infused olive oil and coconut oil and use it as a dressing on your salad. There’s so many things you can do, which makes it a lot easier to treat autoimmune disease naturally.
What do you love to make with your LĒVO?
The other day I made stuffed eggplant. When the recipe called for olive oil, I used my infused olive oil. I haven’t done gummies or things like that because I’m trying to stay away from snacking as much as possible. I use coconut oil for everything and I also have an infusion sprayer for the olive oil. My ultimate goal is to go plant-based because I’ve read a lot of studies that say plants can really heal your insides. It’s all about finding substitutions; I made a vegan, gluten-free mac and cheese and I’m okay with never, ever having the real macaroni and cheese again.
And finally, what prompted you to start your own Instagram account to share your journey?
I felt lonely at the beginning. I felt like I didn’t have support and like nobody understood me. It felt like there weren’t a lot of platforms for it, and that’s what I want to work on. This autoimmune disease affects women so much and even the process can take three to four years on average to get a correct diagnosis. There are a lot of women who go to doctors and tell them how tired they are, and the doctor’s response is ‘do less stressful things.’ It’s really unfortunate because fatigue is one of the symptoms.
3 Shadé-Inspired Recipes To Try
Shadé’s favorite recipes let vegetables shine. Whether she’s whipping up a chickpea vegetable pizza, a curry red lentil stew and roasted vegetables, or a stuffed eggplant with vegan cheese sauce and a side of mushroom soup, she’s really mixing up what she’s infusing, and we love the variety! Here are three recipes to try, inspired by Shadé.
Tahini Eggplant: Shadé loves stuffed eggplant, so this is a great way to get a healthy meal in, without skimping on flavor.
Pumpkin Coconut Curry: A vegan, gluten-free lifestyle doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy curries! This curry is a filling, warming dinner, and is even better reheated the next day.
Buffalo Chickpea Tacos: In line with Shadé’s gluten-free diet, these vegan, spicy chickpea tacos are so simple to make and are great for meal prep.